Lots of you know from firsthand experience that it’s just harder for a qualified Indian candidate to get into one of the best U.S. bschools.
It’s harder because all the schools are admitting something like 35 to 40% internationals — but that’s all internationals. If you’re an Indian American (meaning, a U.S. citizen of Indian descent) then you’re automatically at a massive advantage compared to an Indian Indian (of Indian citizenship). However, in our experience, whether it’s through any kind of intentional system or not, we’re still seeing Indian Americans have trouble cracking some schools. We’re not on the inside of any admissions office but we seriously doubt that there are any agenda where they’re intentionally trying to limit the numbers. We do know that they want a balance, and that applies across all dimensions you can think of, from race and ethnicity to obviously gender and also work experience and all the other factors that they ask about and track in the apps. They want to build a diverse class. Many schools could fill the entire class with only Indians, or only Chinese nationals, or those from Singapore. It’s the same as how they could accept only applicants with a 750+ on the GMAT. They choose not to — even Stanford is not doing that (yet). Part of the reason is that they want diversity, and that comes in many forms. (Duh, EssaySnark, that’s like the definition of the word.)
Nobody is catching a break these days.
Then of course, it’s harder if you’re an Indian from Indian, because you are competing for a much smaller number of total seats in one of these programs — and because there just so blessed many of you folks.
It’s certainly competitive for Americans, too. It’s not like it’s easy for any demographic. But if a school like Haas with a class size of around 250 is trying to top out at 40% international students, then you get 100 students who are coming from 40 different countries… You can instantly spot the problem. Most of the seats at Haas are for American students. The remaining seats are divided up across the entire rest of the world.
To get ~100 international students, they probably need to admit something like ohdunnomaybe 125 or so. A good chunk of those 40 countries have probably only sent one student to Berkeley, so let’s just throw a number out and say that a third of the internationals are from India. So that means you’re at perhaps 30 or 40 applicants they can take (if you’re feeling generous due to churn and yields). And that gets us, what, 15 in Round 1 and 20 in Round 2, and sorry Round 3, we’re full?
Does this offer some perspective? Even if our numbers are off, hopefully you can see it better now.
This is a problem of true scarcity of supply.
Of course, the challenge is compounded by the demand side, and the sheer number of Indian applicants trying for all the schools, but Haas especially, right now. We don’t know real data, but our guess is that Berkeley had major increases in app volumes and that a big factor of those increases has been greater interest from India. Everybody wants to go to Berkeley right now.
What this means is, if you’re an Indian candidate who managed to even get an interview invite at Berkeley in the past cycle or two then you were among a select crowd indeed.
So not to belabor it or anything, if you’re an Indian applying from India, then you need to break out of the pack.
It may seem like the deck is stacked against you, or the game is rigged, as we have heard some say. But honestly, EVERYBODY feels like that to some extent or another.
If you’re an average candidate, you’re going to have a hard time getting into any of the top MBA programs these days. That’s all there is to it. These schools are getting so many applications that there’s no need for them to accept average ones. Of course they DO accept the average ones; that’s how they have the average, on like GMAT score and the like. But if your stats are only average, you need to be pretty darned special in more than one way to make it in.
Wanna know a secret?
Most applicants’ essays are not that great. But what seems to be particularly true is that a large portion of Indian applicants’ essays aren’t great. This could be partially due to the preponderance of engineers making up that crowd. Engineers aren’t necessarily interested in, or trained for, expressing their thoughts on paper as a logical argument, which is what the MBA application essay requires. All the techniques that we teach here in Snarkville are difficult to grasp when they’re new to you (which they are to most BSers) however it seems that sometimes there is a cultural block or simply a lack of prior educational experience which can make it an even greater struggle for Indians.
We’re painting with a massively broad brush today and we apologize for making statements that are gross oversimplifications and generalizations. We don’t typically like to use stereotypes, and we know of many specific cases of incredible writers coming from the Indian applicant pool. So please don’t take offense by the points we’re raising.
The key takeaway that we’re intending is, if you really want to stand out from the crowded applicant pool, having excellent essays is the way to do it.
This will get you so much further in this process than a higher GMAT will.
If you feel you can raise your GMAT score, then sure, you should do that. But please don’t fool yourself into thinking that that alone will make all the difference.
It will need to be the GMAT, plus excellent execution in your application.
As we’ve been saying, it’s the whole package.
Well, what is “the package” comprised of?
It’s the presentation. It’s how you put yourself forth on paper. It’s the writing. The content of the essays, and how you express yourself in them.
So. That’s our lecture for today. It’s not that Indians are all at a massive disadvantage and that if you’re Indian, there’s nothing you can do about it. There is ALWAYS something you can do.
Is learning this new skill going to be difficult and scary? Sure. Is it something you may be nervous or afraid about, if you’ve never done much of it before? Probably. Does that mean you won’t be successful?
Not if you try, and you try some more, and you keep working at it and you don’t give up.
One additional comment we should have made on that recent reapplicant post:
Crossing the bridge to 30 is not a line of demarcation. It sometimes seems like there’s way more Indian applicants who are over 30 who are trying (more than other nationalities — not sure if that’s accurate) and so that just compounds the problem. Every year though, we have BSers coming from all sorts of countries who happen to have been born in the ’80s who still make it into top MBA programs. So don’t believe the hype about how you can be too old or you’re aging out. Yes it can be harder — but it’s just hard in general. Right?
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